- The Washington Times - Friday, March 9, 2007

ETHIOPIA

Kidnapped Europeans seen in remote region

MEKELE — Five European tourists who went missing last week in northeastern Ethiopia are being held by kidnappers in a remote tribal region, Ethiopia’s foreign minister said yesterday.

Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin said his information came from tribal elders who spotted the group in the Afar region, which straddles the disputed border between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

“They are in good condition,” Mr. Mesfin said, adding that officials did not know who the kidnappers were but insisted the tourists were “safe and secure.”

PORTUGAL

Parliament liberalizes abortion law

LISBON — Portugal’s parliament voted overwhelmingly to legalize abortion up until the 10th week of pregnancy, a major step in bringing this small Roman Catholic nation in line with most of its European neighbors.

The Thursday-night vote came less than a month after a popular referendum failed because of low turnout, but nonetheless showed that most voters were in favor of legalizing abortion.

By European standards, the new law is still on the restrictive side. Women can seek abortions up to the 24th week of pregnancy in Britain and up to the 12th week in Germany, France and Italy. In the United States, a 1973 Supreme Court ruling established the right to abortion, although individual states have passed laws with varying restrictions.

AFGHANISTAN

8 held in killing of German aid worker

MAZAR-E-SHARIF — Afghan authorities detained eight men yesterday in connection with the slaying of a German aid worker in northern Afghanistan.

Gunmen killed the worker for a German aid group, which builds hospitals and other development projects, on a road in Shar-e-Pul province on Thursday.

“Eight people have been detained. Six of them are suspected of being involved in the killing while two others could be criminals,” Shar-e-Pul Gov. Sayed Mohammad Iqbal Munib said.

RUSSIA

Talks on payments from Iran founder

MOSCOW — Talks between Russian and Iranian nuclear officials over delayed payments for nuclear fuel destined for a Russian-built power plant ended yesterday without apparent resolution and each side suggested the other was negotiating in bad faith.

The vice president of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Mohammed Saeedi, said that his country was ready to provide more funds to enable the September start of the Bushehr plant.

A Russian official familiar with the negotiations between the countries said Iranian officials refused to sign a document promising the increased payments, and the official indicated Russia would not ship uranium fuel this month as expected.

SRI LANKA

Fighting in east kills 20 rebels

COLOMBO — Anti-insurgency commandos overran a rebel base in eastern Sri Lanka yesterday, killing at least 20 guerrillas, the military said.

The Tamil Tiger base 130 miles east of the capital, Colombo, was thought to be a “threat to the main road” where suspected rebels often activate roadside bombs targeting the military, Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe said.

He said three commandos died in the fighting, and 12 were wounded. Rebel officials were not available to comment on the clash.

GEORGIA

Plans announced to double Iraq force

TBILISI — Georgia plans to more than double the size of its 850-strong peacekeeping unit serving alongside U.S.-led forces in Iraq, the country’s president said yesterday.

“We are ready to increase our presence in Baghdad up to 2,000, to help restore order in Baghdad and it should last for about a year,” President Mikhail Saakashvili said.

Last weekend Mr. Saakashvili announced plans to send more troops to help U.S. and Iraqi forces rein in sectarian violence but he did not give troop numbers.

LEBANON

Key leaders meet on political crisis

BEIRUT — Leaders of Lebanon’s pro-government and opposition factions met for the first time in four months and called for an easing of tension as a first step toward ending the country’s political crisis.

Saad Hariri, the leader of the pro-government majority in parliament, held three hours of talks Thursday night with the parliamentary speaker, Nabih Berri, an opposition party leader who is aligned with Hezbollah.

Politicians welcomed news of the talks yesterday.

The meeting came after months of dispute in which politicians traded insults and their supporters clashed in the streets, leading many to fear that the country was returning to the violence of the 1975-90 civil war.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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